Hartford entrepreneur Gary Neff says he sees dollar signs on many parking garage he passes -- not from parked vehicles but as electronic media billboards.
His fledgling venture, Garage Media, will throw the switch later this month on its first deal in that most iconic of advertising venues -- New York City's Times Square -- bathing The Port Authority Bus Terminal building in round-the-clock advertising.
Garage Media and its Boston partner, Neff says, have some 60 other deals pending nationwide -- none of which involve any of Connecticut's parking garages -- to wrap the structures in a mesh-like metal fabric that uses LED lighting and printing to convey advertising and other commercial messages.
"I've been working on it quietly for the last few years,'' said Neff, who spent 25 years working and consulting for parking-garage equipment vendors before branching out on his own.
"We're kind of the anti-billboard guys. We're saying take down the billboards and monetize your buildings,'' he told HBJ Today on Tuesday.
Garage Media, housed at 750 Main St. in downtown Hartford, recruits the real estate. But its Boston partner A2aMedia recruits advertisers and creates the ad content. A2aMedia also has the North American rights to the German mesh technology for displaying the ads.
In Times Square, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has signed on to wrap two sides of its three-block-long bus terminal at 40th to 42nd Streets and 8th Avenue to 9th Avenue in 6,000 square feet of "MediaMesh,'' Neff said. The site is ideal, he said, because an estimated 1.5 million pairs of eyes daily pass by the drab but busy terminal.
The port authority will collect lease payments of at least $600,000 to $700,000 annually plus a share of the advertising revenue, but that could rise to $1 million over time, he said.
A port authority spokesman Tuesday confirmed its advertising partnership.
Garage Media and A2aMedia so far have generated some $30 million in commitments from commercial and equity financing for their venture, including from Australia's Macquarie Group, Neff said.
Among the pending contracts is one with the Springfield Sheraton Hotel, he said, to outfit the building visible from Interstate 91 with the mesh wrapper that Neff says from inside the building would look like venetian blinds.
He said he so far has gotten a cool response from operators of several Hartford parking garages. But one, Hartford-based ProPark America, is in talks, Neff said, about equipping some of its facilities to generate ad revenue.
ProPark did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday for comment.